By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — Salem High School’s a cappella choir, WitchPitch? will represent the Northeast and compete against high schools from all over the U.S. in three weeks.
But first, they’ll perform for the home crowd.
WitchPitch? will join Redline, a professional a cappella group from Boston, on Thursday night for a fundraiser concert at Salem High School. Proceeds will go toward travel expenses to New York for the national finals.
This spring marks the third year that WitchPitch? has won the New England regional semifinals, advancing them to the Varsity Vocals International Championship of High School A Cappella.
They’ll compete against nine other high schools from across the U.S. on April 19 in New York City.
“This is our chance to push ourselves as far was we can go,” senior Catherine Majeski said. “(This year), we’ve learned to be a lot more authentic in our execution of the music — getting to the core of what the music means.”
The 18-member group has put countless hours into polishing its 12-minute routine this winter, hoping to impress the judges. WitchPitch? will perform a mix of five songs, unaccompanied, with choreography.
“We emulate the sound of a full band with our voices,” explained Derek Dupuis, a junior who has arranged some of the group’s music.
“There’s something special when there’s no other instruments involved,” senior Austin Sholds agreed.
The group’s repertoire follows an arc of emotions, Majeski said, from love and lust to loss and happiness.
It’s “exhausting” to portray those feelings, through song, in the span of 12 minutes, said Meryl Schultz, a Salem High senior and WitchPitch? president.
When it comes together, it’s “amazing,” she said.
“You’re thinking about a million things at once (the music, choreography, etc.), without letting it show on your face,” senior Kimberly Barzola said. “You have to put your best foot forward, every time you perform.”
A cappella choirs have exploded in popularity recently, especially with the success of television’s “Glee” and the 2012 movie “Pitch Perfect,” both of which portray a cappella choirs.
WitchPitch? director Alex Grover, said that more than 30 students auditioned for five open spots this year. The group rehearses outside the scheduled school day, between four and six hours per week.
Offstage, WitchPitch? members are close friends, “just like a family,” Barzola said.
In addition to placing first at semifinals on March 2, WitchPitch? was given an award for best choreography, and Dupuis earned an “outstanding arrangement” nod for one of the group’s songs.
WitchPitch? — along with Marblehead High School’s Luminescence — was among the 19 high schools to have a recording selected for Varsity Vocals “Best of High School A Cappella” compilation album this year.
Also, an album WitchPitch? recorded last year was nominated for two Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards — the Grammys of a cappella, Grover said.
Despite making it to the national finals for three years running, WitchPitch? has yet to place. Competition is fierce and gets tougher every year, Grover said.
Grover, a Salem High graduate, founded WitchPitch? in 2009. He’s hoping that WitchPitch? will place at nationals, which would earn them a spot to perform, in exhibition, at the college-level finals the following night.
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.
IF YOU GO What: A cappella concert fundraiser featuring WitchPitch? of Salem High School and Redline, a Boston-based all-male professional group When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Where: Salem High School auditorium, 77 Wilson St. How much: Tickets will be available at the door; $15 for adults, $10 for students/seniors. Proceeds will go toward upcoming trip for WitchPitch? to New York City to compete in the Varsity Vocals International Championship of High School A Cappella. More information: Email firstname.lastname@example.org.